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The Commit Report | Retaining Satisfied Restaurant Customers

June 1, 2022

In our previous blog posts, we shared research on restaurant industry patronage across the United States, including why it’s important to build loyalty with existing diners. In addition to the loyalty programs that keep customers coming back, there are specific preferences our respondents shared about the food they want and how they want to order it.

Different Attitudinal Segments, Different Food Preferences

After surveying 1,000 consumers, we discovered three segments of restaurant patrons. We found that each of them have different attitudes about restaurants and different preferences about the food they look for.

#1: Social Explorers

These diners like trying new things, so they prefer new, unfamiliar foods. Because their friends rely on them for restaurant recommendations (thus cementing their reputation as an expert, which they love), they like sharing those experiences with them. These patrons are significantly more likely to choose restaurants that always have something new on the menu. They are also more likely to seek out locally-sourced ingredients when choosing a restaurant.

#2: Supportive Treaters

These diners want restaurants that offer a wide range of items so that everyone in their party will be satisfied. Since going out is a treat for them, familiar dishes presented with a special touch of elegance are especially important to them. Therefore, they are more likely than other segments to choose restaurants where their favorite menu items are always available.

#3: Disengaged Savers

This group doesn’t care as much as the other segments about their food. Given their preference for cooking and eating at home and keeping dining costs down, they gravitate toward simple meals at a modest price. These respondents are less likely to choose restaurants based on:

  • Favorite menu items
  • A wide variety of dishes
  • Whether or not they can customize their order
  • Dishes they can get anywhere
  • New dishes they haven’t tried

Regardless of how restaurant patrons feel about dining out or eating restaurant food at home, we discovered that most are willing to pay a little more for healthy food that is freshly prepared; half of both Social Explorers and Supportive Treaters and 31 percent of Disengaged Savers strongly agree with this statement.

How Diners Like to Order

When it comes to how these diners like placing an order, most people want to place their dine-in order with a server once they’re seated. Here’s who agreed with this statement by group:

  • 67 percent of Disengaged Savers
  • 75 percent of Social Explorers
  • 88 percent of Supportive Treaters

After they’re seated, only 13 percent of respondents said they would prefer to place an order for dine-in using an app or QR code. And 10 percent of respondents say they’d prefer to use a touchless digital device on their table to place an order.

Age also makes a difference in regard to how diners like to place an order. Those over 60 are significantly more likely than other age groups to place their order with a server. Diners under 30 are significantly more likely to prefer placing their order using an app or QR code, although the number is still fairly small—only 22 percent. However, there isn’t much of a difference between this group’s preferences and those of diners who are 30-59.

When placing orders for takeout, curbside pickup or delivery, 52 percent of patrons prefer using the restaurant’s website and 48 percent like placing their order by phone. Only 35 percent of diners like using the restaurant’s app. Disengaged Savers are significantly less likely than the other groups to complete an order this way.

These days, third-party apps like DoorDash and Postmates are more popular than ever. Respondents under 40 are substantially more likely than those over 50 to use a service like this to place takeout or delivery orders. For younger diners, these apps are equally preferred as placing an order through a restaurant’s website or by phone.

Ask yourself: How can food and ordering options keep your ideal customers coming back?

Recommendations to Engage Your Target Audience

The key takeaway here is identifying which customers make the most sense for you and offering food and ordering options that will appeal to them. This will help build loyalty so they keep coming back to your establishment.

Do you want to service Social Explorers? You’re going to need a menu that continues to offer new options, unique flavors and food experiences that are worth sharing.

Looking to engage Supportive Treaters? Keep familiar favorites and a range of options and prices on the menu.

If Disengaged Savers are your target customers, add no-frills meals at modest prices to your menu.

Fresh, healthy food appeals to everyone in these categories. However, if you want diners under the age of 30, be careful about eliminating servers. The vast majority of these diners still prefer to order with a server when dining in. If you want to learn more about diner preferences when using technology, stay tuned for our next blog post!

At Commit Agency, we know this is a pivotal moment for restaurants right now. Using social listening and other research methodologies, we know what our clients’ customers are looking for and have used that intel to optimize the brand-customer experience.

To learn more about each patron’s behaviors and get insights into the opportunities they present, check out our entire executive summary.

MARKETING INSIGHTS FOR YOUR SUCCESS